Chateau Ste Michelle
I don’t think Chateau Ste Michelle needs much of an introduction. Washington state's largest winery, CSM is one of the old guard that helped revitalize the industry here. Founded in 1972 with production starting in 1976, the early years here benefitted from the guidance of the famous Andre Tchelistcheff, who consulted on all elements of the early winery from vineyard plantings to techniques in the cellar. The results were quickly successful, which combined with a certain degree of business acumen to yield the rapid growth, most notably in the 1990s, that has created the behemoth we see today.   It is worth noting that while we all love to bash the big boys, CSM continues to produce world class wines. They source fruit from long time partners throughout the state but also have their own Canoe Ridge and Cold Creek vineyards from which they produce estate wines. The style of wine at CSM has changed perceptibly over the years, moving towards a less powerful and extracted style for the red wines over the past several vintages.  
The Canoe Ridge site is cooler with sandy soils though it’s also earlier to bloom and ripen than the Cold Creek vineyard, producing a more elegant style of wine. Cold Creek on the other hand has a richer soil with a thick layer of clay over the basaltic bedrock and more warmth that accumulates over the growing season lending wines from these blocks greater power and richness. In an effort to make the best possible expression of each vintage, most reserve wines from CSM feature a blend of fruit from these two vineyards. 
16.66 grams per liter residual sugar
Big lime and lemon aromas greet the nose layered over a nice mineral base note with a hint of steel and some heathery floral highlights. Bright juicy acids lend an almost firm feel to this on the palate which shows that hint of sweet roundness balance with the steely mineral acids. Clear and fresh on the palate with lots of mineral character balanced by slightly under-ripe peach fruit and a hint of mango that emerges on the moderately long finish.  89pts
100% barrel fermented, 50% natural yeats, one third new wood, sends 10 months in oak 
Fairly oaky on the nose and  a bit creamy though nicely floral and fresh with tart apple aromas.  Starting off  a bit soft and round in the mouth this shows off fine clarity to the fruit, rather pear driven with spicy cider apple notes wrapped in a creamy barrel fermented texture. A bit soft in the mouth for my tastes, yet not really low acid in style, the softness continues on the finish, which is fairly long is also on the light and ethereal side for a wine of this style. 88pts
Smoky and a little meaty on the nose with dark aromas of roasted coffee, and a little spicy with hints of ink and stem. Smooth and moderately rich in the mouth with nice firm little pointy tannins wrapped in coffee and fresh plumy fruit. There’s lovely depth and nuance on the palate with black raspberry and red cherry fruit emerging on the backend before gaining spicy toasty oak spice and vanilla accents. The oak is fairly obvious through here but well integrated and in balance with the bright flavors of fresh fruit. 91pts
Gorgeous on the nose with rich aromas of blackcurrant layered over notes of black truffle, tobacco, a little herb and black olive A  really classy Bordeaux-esque nose. Cool and rich in the mouth, this is fabulous, all truffly and filled with blackcurrant and boysenberry fruit supported by superfine acids. It’s still a little tight on the finish with some brewed tea notes and steeped tannins, but its powerful and long, and so well balanced. Drinking at peak with some room left for improvement. 93pts
A bit buttery with  base notes of wood, peppery spice lurking under lightly herbal and violet tinged crushed blackcurrant fruit framed with a toasty coconut nuance.  Rich and velvety in the mouth, this is packed with purple berry fruit supported by supple but present tannins. The texture is a touch on the creamy side finishing with explosive fresh fruit wrapping in vanilla, mocha and light tobacco nuances. Long and fairly elegant. 91pts
Deep tobacco and spice aromas over toasty oak and matte black fruit that shows some little blue fruit greets the nose along with a touch of granite. Deep, powerful, and weighty on the palate this shows lots of richness and an  edge of sweetness from wood in the mouth. Really well managed tannins disappear on the palate as bitter chocolate and tobacco flood the mouth along with gorgeous black currant fruit. The finish turns spicy with oak and hints of dried fruit and a little BBQ spiced beef jerky thing. Young and powerful, this looks to have great potential over the short to medium term. 93pts
75 grams per liter residual sugar
35% botrytis infected, natural occurring,
Lime, peach and chalk appear on the nose followed by spicy botrytis aromas that make this almost gingery. Sweet/tart on entry, this has lots of acid hiding behind the obvious sweetness of the palate, which really brings out the peachy character here. The botrytis pops on the backend, which shows off a gingery creme brulee and peach pie character. This has great aromatics in lots of juicy acid refreshing the palate and driving the finish with its hint of honey and tart green apricot accents. This is fairly sweet, falling right between dessert level and table wine for me. Delicious but I’m not sure when I would serve this. 92pts

Novelty Hill and Januik

While two distinct winemaking operations, Novelty Hill and Janiuk do share both a winemaker and a winery. The opportunity to taste the wines side by side is fascinating. Novelty Hill’s wines are predominantly estate fruit, even the Columbia valley bottlings which include some 60% or more of fruit from the winery’s 245 acre Stillwater Creek vineyard located in Columbia Valley’s Frenchman Hills. Januik on the hand prefers to source fruit from many of the state’s preeminent vineyards. Both sets of wines are produced by Mike januik, though the brands do retain distinct personalities, the Novelty Hills wines being more fruit driven and a bit softer than their Januik counterparts. Comparing them side by side affords fascinating insight into the different fruit sources, though the winemaking no doubt is also playing a role here.

2012 Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc $20

79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Semillon

Soft on the nose and a bit creamy and spicy with lesy floral notes over a base of  pineapple and grapefruit Mineral and fresh on entry, this is a touch simple though with lovely river stone minerality under slightly creamy gooseberry inflected pineapple fruit. Clean, zesty, and green fruited on the moderately long finish which shows a suggestion of sweetness. 88pts

2012 Januik Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc $22

83% Sauvignon Blanc; 17% Semillon

Earthy on the nose with perfumes of old wood and wax lurking under jasmine and white floral aromas. A little hint of smoke and honeycomb greets the palate with semillon obviously contributing both flavor and power in the mouth. Graced with rich baked apple, fig and quince flavors on the midpalate, this finishes with power and lingering complexity. A wine that is fabulous today but I bet this shows even better in 2 to 3 years time. 92pts

2012 Novelty Hill Viognier Stillwater Creek $23

 95% Viognier; 5% Roussanne

The classic nose is filled with lots of candied citrus, white flowers, honeycomb, and a hint of vanilla. Solid acids support nice fruit, fresh on the palate which is rich with quince fruit and a lovely hint of polleny polyphenolic bitterness. This is a pretty zesty style of Viognier featuring intriguing notes of green fruits and apricots in the mouth but not showing great drive on the finish. This turns a touch hot on the finish. 88pts

2012 Novelty Hill Roussanne Stillwater Creek $23

93% Roussanne; 7% Viognier

Tight, and nutty on the nose with a subtle yet complex array of heather, a bit of white pepper, almond and dry orange, dried citron, honey, orange pekoe tea, and mandarin fruit With nice focus and snap on the palate this reveals a fairly deep core of pithy, taut, grapefruit tinged fruit  that shows good length on the long, polleny finish. 91pts

2012 Novelty Hill Chardonnay Stillwater Creek $23

Almondy and a little toasty on the nose with some creme brûlée framing the core of  apple and peach fruit. This is frankly fruity and gently sweetened by the wood. A little creamy on the midpalate, though with nice snap from acid that keeps the juicy fruit driven style nice and sapid in the mouth. This finishes with a nice smoky oak cast on the moderately long finish. 88pts

2012 Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay $30

Low and Burgundian on the nose with a soft, creamy layer of vanilla draped over a base of lightly smoky, honeycomb rich cooked pineapple and pressed floral aromas.  Showing juicy acids on entry this is fairly restrained with  lovely fruit that is very clear on the palate. This is focused is somewhat small scaled with pineapple and green gage plum fruit that extends across the finish where this has just a suggestion of sweetness from the wood that is very engaging. 90pts

2011 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Merlot $20

Sweet on the nose with hints of  mocha,  herbs and peppery spice layered over plummy fruit.  Bright on entry with  brambly, tart raspberry fruit that is very fresh and clean on the palate picking up toasty oak and  and freshly roasted coffee notes on the backend.  A bit tart, lean and short, this is pleasant but doesn’t excite me. 87pts

2011 Januik Columbia Valley Merlot $25

Lots of toasty spice joins complex aromas of chocolate, black berry, brownie, bitter cocoa, a little plum and stemmy herb on the nose. Bright and fresh on entry with a nice hint of fleshiness along with a hint of truffle and very pure chocolate that helps to frame the fruit which is all boysenberry and wild plum toned. A little tannic bite on the finish adds length to this admirably pure example of Merlot. 90pts

2010 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Merlot

A little raw oak shows up on the nose, along with toasty spice, vanilla, a hint of coconut and green herbal and candied fennel nuance. Round, bright and clear in the mouth, this delivers a rich mouthful of raspberry and fresh plummy  fruit, underpinned by fine tannins, though there is  just a little too much wood tannins today. Still this is long and focused with lovely persistence and freshness to the fruit on the  backend, and through the power, elegant and intense finish. 90pts

2011 Januik Klipsun Vineyard Merlot $30

Coffee beans and a bit of steeped herb and earth frame the deeply plummy and almost slightly gamy fruit on the nose. This is a  relatively big wine, that remains light on its feet. the rich fruit is supple on entry but nicely underpinned by fine acids and ripe tannins, revealing intense fresh plummy fruit with a hint of black currant on the midpalate before picking up a bit of toasty spice and mineral nuance and plum skin on the long finish. Just a gorgeous Merlot, powerful and long yet so well balanced and already showing some finesse on the finish. 92pts

2010 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $26

A bit jammy, almost roasted and beefy on the nose with vanilla accents to the blackberry fruit, as well as some toasty wood spice as well. Bright and plump with a lovely ripe mouthfeel and rich black cherry blackberry fruit supported by dusty tannins and solids acids. A subtle hint of wood spice and just a suggestion of herb shows up on the backend, which gains a hint of sweetness that helps the fruit linger on the palate. A lovely, fun style of Cabernet that remains clean and focused. 89pts

2011 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Earthy on the nose and just a little candied with hints of  licorice, creamy cocoa, and lovely nuanced nutty, hickory add detail to the  cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Rich yet bright with acid, the tight, fleshy yet firm palate is rich with dark fruit cherry and currant fruit wrapped up in notes of  espresso creme. Long and fairly firm, this opens up a touch on the nose, and shows flashes of red currant on the palate and the moderately long finish. It’s wonderfully well balanced if a light tight today. There is a lot going on here. 90pts

2010 Januik Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $40

Vanillas and herbs greet the nose  along with  with faceted purple fruit, and an exotic hint of pomegranate then turning rather soil driven on the nose. Powerful and slightly inky in the mouth, this has gorgeously ripe and crystal clear black fruit on the palate. Decidedly structured, but not tough, it’s packed with fine grained tannins and lively acids that keep this lively in the mouth. Firming up on the backend, this lacks a little complexity but offers up gorgeous black currant fruit, that turns slightly astringent and lean on the long finish. A really classic style of cabernet, this should gains a bit of flesh with age and the tannins should soften and integrate well but today it’s fascinating for it’s stern elegance. 92pts

2011 Januik Weinbau Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $40

Opening with huge carob and mocha aromas this shows a bit of a heavy nose, a bit heavy on the oak Soft on entry, then a bit low and quite earthy on the palate with purple fruit that lacks the energy of the Champoux in the mouth. This is a bit richer with huge soft tannins in the mouth along with some burnt chocolate and dried fruit flavors. Showing good length, this is fairly seductively textured but shows a less interesting flavor profile than the Champoux, though this is much easier to understand. 90pts

2011 Januik Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon $45

High toned and a bit floral on the nose with a little herb adding detail to the  black raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. This is a bit oily and really quite floral and perfumed on the nose.  Youthful purple and plummy fruit in the mouth shows an interesting blend of freshly crushed fruit and clean oaky flavor with a hint of richness. Wood tannins add their heft on the backend where the  power and elegance sort of slide out from under the blanket of youthful fruit that is the mid-palate. An exclamation point of a wine. This is long and a bit edgy in need of some time in the cellar. 92pts

2011 Januik Reserve Red Columbia valley $65

Earthy, savory, rich and complex on the nose with leather and peppery nuances framing a core of pure black currant fruit. Cool and seamless one entry, then this both fleshes out a bit and firms up nicely revealing lots of polished tannins are lurking under the juicy red currant and baked black berry fruit. Picking up a bit of cafe au lait and a little nutty oak on the backend before segueing to a long and sculpted finish. This wine makes a statement with it refined yet powerful texture and pure, deep fruit. 93pts

2011 Novelty Hill Syrah Columbia Valley $23

Nutty and showing the oak treatment that is fairly consistent across the Novelty Hill line-up. Slow to emerge black pepper and beefy hints help add a dash of complexity to the tart blackberry fruit on the nose all topped with a hint of vanilla. This is supple rich in the mouth if slightly angular with blue fruit, violets and a hint of beefiness on the palate. Rich with soft tannins and integrated acids this shows its best on the backend and through the modest finish with bright blueberry fruit and streaks of vanilla. 88pts

2011 Januik Ciel du Cheval Syrah $35

Smoky, and a little funky on the nose with some dusty soil tones and lots of macerated floral aromas and a hint of juniper. Nicely open on entry with clear flavors of wild black raspberry, blackberry and slightly medicinal floral tones which gain prominence on the backend. The tannin here are very well managed and this gains an attractive papery spice on the midpalate, with a hint of cocoa that runs through the long, zesty, sapid blueberry finish. Nervous and clear in the mouth, this is beautiful. 92pts

2011 Januik Weinbau Syrah

Dark raisins and  raspberries come together on the nose along with streaks of vanilla and cocoa, and just a hint of a floral top note.  Bright on the palate but with neither the depth nor the detail of the Ciel du cheval. This really has a lovely texture, open and clear in the mouth with good acids and  slightly austere tannins supporting fine blue plum and  violet fruit but there’s not a lot of persistence or depth on the palate. 89pts

2011 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Sangiovese $28

Raspberries and spice greet the nose in a high toned and zesty fashion. This smells of Sangiovese, a little nervous and tart with mossy accents and some BBQ spice coming from the oak. Rather supple on entry then showing the classic mid-weight Sangiovese structure, a touch soft perhaps but with tons of raspberry and strawberry flavors and a hint of orange rind adding some detail on the backend. The tannins are modest with an attractive astringent bent to them, gaining a little sweetness on the finish from the wood. A bit simple but very attractive and fun in fresh new world style. 87pts